Saturday, September 02, 2006

The State of U.S. Labor Markets

On this Labor Day weekend, Floyd Norris of the New York Times ponders some puzzling, and seemingly contradictory, labor market analyses:
On the good side, the unemployment rate, at 5.5 percent in November 2001, was down to 4.7 percent in August, the Labor Department reported yesterday. In similar periods after ends of the nine previous downturns, the unemployment rate was that low only once.
The low unemployment rate has come about despite a slow rate of job creation. At this point after the previous nine recessions, there were an average of 11.9 percent more jobs in the economy than there had been at the end of the recession.
But so far, as the charts show, there are just 3.5 percent more jobs than at the end of the last recession. That is less than half the lowest of the nine previous moves — a gain of 7.6 percent in the period after the 1953-54 recession. And that figure was held down by the fact that another recession, in 1957-58, had taken place by then.
The differing results some from two different surveys:
To some extent, the divergent indicators reflect the fact that the numbers come from two surveys with different methodologies and, in recent years, differing trends. The jobs figure comes from a Labor Department survey of establishments and lately it has tended to produce gloomier numbers than the other survey the department performs, in which households are asked which members have jobs.
The unemployment numbers tend to be more positive, if only marginally:
Even the household survey, with its more positive numbers, indicates that little progress on jobs has been made in this recovery. There has been almost no increase, by these statistics, in the percentage of working-age Americans who are working.
Norris also points out some of the changes in the structure of the U.S. economy over the last fifty years.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please be aware that if you want a job but are not actively searching or on the compensation rolls at the time of the survey, you are not counted as among the unemployed. If you want a job but can't find one, have given up for a time out of frustration, you are not counted. How many have fallen to that level from the work force?


5:55 AM, September 03, 2006  

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